White Earth Nation Cancels Controversial Plan For Casino
After three years of painstaking planning, the White Earth Nation has canceled its plans for a casino, event center, and hotel in Otter Tail County, Minnesota. The 270-acre plans, around 190 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, would have been on the shore of Star Lake, trust land of the tribe’s. The Chippewa nation announced that the reason for the canceled plans is due to the rescinded authorization from its business committee. The project had lots of opponents, mostly residents worried about environmental damage, traffic, and noise.
The Star Lake area where the casino had been planned is home to wildlife breeding grounds, wild rice beds, and cabins that have been held in families for many generations.
The White Earth Band’s plans were to build a new casino on Star Lake west of Dent, Minnesota. Named Star Lake Casino, the site would have more than a mile of lake frontage and would have been a smaller sister casino to the Shooting Star Casinos in Bagley and Mahnomen.
The White Earth Chippewa Band’s plans to build a third casino (Star Lake Casino) were canceled due to a 4-0 vote of the tribe’s Business Casino.
Otter Tail County
Otter Trail County has over 100 mom-and-pop resorts, and the casino project would have been completely unlike what residents and visitors are used to. The project would have had 180 hotel rooms, a full-service spa, an RV park, and a convention center big enough to host gatherings of 400 participants in addition to 850 slot machines.
Opponents of the project sent over 400 pages of letters and emails to the county’s Board of Commissioners. One specific letter from a resident in Fergus Falls, Mark Oyloe, wrote,
“I would suggest that anyone who thinks the transportation infrastructure is adequate for the proposed project take a drive from Pelican Rapids to Dent on [State Hwy.] 108 on a dark, cloudy night.”
Another opponent, who identified herself as a White Earth tribal member, Pam Fairbanks, said,
“Our Reservation is in need of anything but another casino.”
White Earth Indian Reservation
The White Earth Indian Reservation is the home for the White Earth Band in northwestern Minnesota. The largest Indian reservation in Minnesota by land area, the reservation is about 225 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul and about 65 miles from Fargo-Moorhead.
White Earth Nation Casinos in Minnesota
There are currently 20 casinos, racetracks, and poker rooms in operation in Minnesota, two of which are operated by the White Earth Nation. The newest, Shooting Star Casino near Bagley, is on the northeastern side of the reservation. It features 170 slot machines and an eatery in its 21,400 square-foot facility. It opened in August 2016.
The original Shooting Star, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016, is in Mahnomen, on the western edge of the reservation. Much larger and with more features than the newest casino near Bagley, this one has close to 30,000 square feet of event/meeting space, Las Vegas-style gaming tables, and hosts live shows for big-name concerts.
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